Seattle-based Alaska Airlines has fallen to worst among the U.S. mainline carriers for mishandled bags. Fortunately for Northwest travelers, the unhappy distinction may be short-lived.
The nation's large airlines file monthly reports to the U.S. Department of Transportation about lost, damaged or delayed baggage. For Alaska, mishandled bags increased 44 percent in June, July and August of this year compared to the same period last year.
"We had a rough quarter on mishandled bags and the operations folks own that,” Alaska Airlines Chief Operating Officer Ben Minicucci said in an earnings conference call with Wall Street analysts Thursday morning. “We're not happy with how we performed. We actually have an initiative right now and going into 2016 to get our mishandled bags right in line.”
"We have a team of people doing a deep dive into our processes," read a follow up statement. "And already our initial efforts are paying off. Since August, our mishandled bag rate has gone from 4.65 to 2.57 per 1,000 passengers."
Earlier this month, Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden admitted his carrier lost his own bag on a recent trip to Washington, DC. Tilden said this was the busiest summer in the 83 year history of Alaska Air.
The airline is growing briskly in the Northwest to protect its home turf from an incursion by Delta Air Lines. Delta maintained its good baggage handling record during the same period, according to the USDOT statistics.
On the bright side, Alaska has stayed near the top of the list for airline punctuality in 2015.
The parent company of Alaska Airlines and sister carrier Horizon Air recorded a tidy profit in the summer quarter. Its executives told Wall Street analysts on Thursday that the airline is on track for its most profitable year ever.
On a related note, Alaska Airlines' home base and biggest hub -- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport -- reported it set new passenger records during the summer months this year. Port of Seattle spokesman Perry Cooper wrote in an email that the airport's baggage system, "like most things at the airport right now, is running at or beyond its capacity."
The airport is in the process of designing an upgraded replacement. "The new baggage system, unfortunately, is not coming overnight," Cooper wrote. The consolidated, high-speed conveyor system is currently budgeted at $320 million. The first phase is slated to begin service in 2018.